Letter to the editor: Housing in MHK is not safe or affordable. Let’s change that

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This letter to the editor was written by Jonathan Cole, student senator and senior in mechanical engineering. If you would like to write a letter to the Collegian, send us an email at letters@kstatecollegian.com or visit kstatecollegian.com/contact.

Sam Daley-Harris, founder of the RESULTS program, once said: “You are not truly dangerous until you can speak powerfully.” With the current housing situation in Manhattan, students at K-State need to start leveraging their power to fight for safe and affordable housing.

Every year, students move into rental homes and apartments that aren’t exactly the safest, nor exactly affordable. Often, you hear concerns about safety and pricing brushed off as “the way things are” in college. This toxic narrative not only puts students’ academic success at risk, but their health and financial security as well.

More than two in five renters in Manhattan spend 35 percent or more of their income on housing. This is almost 10 points higher than the state average.

By definition, these renters are considered “cost burdened,” and they will struggle to afford things like food, transportation, clothing and medical care. Students are disproportionately affected by this, considering how many of us work erratic hours at costly classes and low-wage jobs.

Some may tell you that safe housing is not an issue, that Manhattan has an inspection program already in place to crack down on unsafe residences. While inspections may be done upon request, there is no building code enforcement in the city, leaving many properties with glaring safety issues like toxigenic mold, unreliable heating and cooling or even structural issues.

Landlords are responsible for making sure their units are safe, but they often take advantage of the fact that Manhattan has no code enforcement.

As students at Kansas State, we need to call upon the municipal government to effect change. Mayor Linda Morse, mayor pro temp Mike Dodson, commissioners Usha Reddi, Wynn Butler and Jerred McKee all must champion measures that can bring about safe and affordable housing for all in Manhattan.

Jonathan Cole is a student senator, RESULTS REAL Change fellow and senior in mechanical engineering. The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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